It’s still more than a month away, but Parkinson Alberta is already gearing up for its annual Step ‘N Stride fundraiser.
“My dad lives with Parkinson’s. He’s been diagnosed for seven years, so this event really means a lot to me. I would love to just explode this walk, really amp it up,” said Lauren Looy, client services and event coordinator for Parkinson Alberta’s Lloydminster region.
Step ‘N Stride, Parkinson Alberta’s signature annual fundraiser, leads a charitable walk through Bud Miller All Seasons Park and takes place on September 12.
The disease is a neurodegenerative condition that causes diminishing muscle strength to a point where its sufferers often experience chronic muscle twitching or full-body tremors.
Other common symptoms of Parkinson’s include stooped posture and poor balance, speech impairment and slowed or stiffened muscles.
“Even walking through a doorway, a person affected by Parkinson’s will freeze,” explained Looy. “Their mind is telling them to walk through that door, but their body will not walk through the door.”
Less common symptoms could involve fatigue, sleep disturbances and constipation.
Although there is no known cure for Parkinson’s, which affects over 80,000 Canadians, medications and therapies can slow the progression of symptoms. And while many other local organizations fundraise with a walk through Bud Miller Park, Looy says that a walk carries extra significance to those with the disease.
“When you’re newly diagnosed, everyone is going to be saying you need to exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Studies are showing that it is slowing the progression of the disease right down.”
Parkinson Alberta, in fact, holds a weekly walking club in Lloydminster, in which members meet at the Servus Sports Centre and walk and talk with for about an hour and a half.
The club normally attracts 10 to 15 people each week, but Looy is setting her sights much, much higher for Step ‘N Stride.
“The last two years we’ve had in between 80 and 100 walkers. This year we would love to see over 150.”
Should that vision come to fruition, Looy estimates that the event would raise approximately $25,000 for Parkinson Alberta. The organization invests that money in research as well as educational and client services like the weekly walking club, and yoga, tai chi and dancing sessions.
While registration for the September Step ‘N Stride is free, walkers are asked to collect pledges.
Parkinson’s typically affects people over the age of 50, and although it is more prevalent in men, the disease affects its fair share of women, too. According to Parkinson Society Canada, 10 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s every day.